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Then did the little maid reply,
“ Seven boys and girls are we; Two of us in the churchyard lie,
Beneath the churchyard tree.”
“ You run about, my little maid ;
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the churchyard laid,
Then ye are only five.” “ Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little maid replied, “Twelve steps or more from mother's door,
And they are side by side.
My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.
“And often after sunset, sir,
When it is light and fair, I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
“ The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her from her pain ;
And then she went away.
“So in the churchyard she was laid ;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.
“ And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”
“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?” Quick was the little maid's reply,
660 Master! we are seven.”
“But they are dead; those two are dead;
Their spirits are in heaven!” 'Twas throwing words away; for still The little maid would have her will;
And said, “Nay, we are seven.'
66 WHICH shall it be? Which shall it be?”
I looked at John, John looked at me;
And when I found that I must speak,
My voice seemed strangely low and weak.
“ Tell me again what Robert said ;”
And then I, listening, bent my head —
This is his letter: “I will give
A house and land while you shall live,
If in return from out your seven
One child to me for aye is given.”
I looked at John's old garments worn;
I thought of all that he had borne
Of poverty, and work, and care,
Which I, though willing, could not share;
I thought of seven young mouths to feed,
Of seven little children's need,
And then of this.
“Come, John,” said I,
“We'll choose among them as they lie
Asleep.” So, walking hand in hand,
Dear John and I surveyed our band :
First to the cradle lightly stepped,
Where Lilian, the baby, slept.
Softly the father stooped to lay
His rough hand down in loving way,
When dream or whisper made her stir,
And huskily he said: “Not her!”
We stooped beside the trundle bed,
And one long ray of lamplight shed
Athwart the boyish faces there,
In sleep so beautiful and fair;
I saw on Jamie's rough, red cheek
A tear undried. E'er John could speak,
“He's but a baby too,” said I,
And kissed him as we hurried by.
Pale, patient Robbie's angel face
Still in his sleep bore suffering's trace – “No, for a thousand crowns, not him!” He whispered, while our eyes were dim.
Poor Dick! bad Dick! our wayward son —
Turbulent, restless, idle one —
Could he be spared ? Nay, He who gave
Bade us befriend him to the grave;
Only a mother's heart could be
Patient enough for such as he;
“ And so," said John, “I would not dare
To take him from her bedside prayer.”
Then stole we softly up above,
And knelt by Mary, child of love;
“Perhaps for her 'twould better be,”
I said to John. Quite silently
He lifted up a curl that lay
Across her cheek in wilful way,
And shook his head : “ Nay, love, not thee,”
The while my heart beat audibly.
Only one more, our eldest lad,
Trusty and truthful, good and glad,
So like his father. No, John, no!
I cannot, will not, let him go."
And so we wrote in courteous way,
We could not give one child away;
And afterwards toil lighter seemed,
Thinking of that of which we dreamed,
Happy in truth that not one face
Was missed from its accustomed place;
Thankful to work for all the seven,
Trusting the rest to One in Heaven !
THE dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink;
I heard a voice; it said, “Drink, pretty creature, drink!”
And, looking o'er the hedge, before me I espied
A snow-white mountain-lamb, with a maiden at its side.
Nor sheep nor kine were near; the lamb was all alone.
And by a slender cord was tethered to a stone.
With one knee on the grass did the little maiden kneel,
While to that mountain-lamb she gave its evening meal.
The lamb, while from her hand he thus his supper took,
Seemed to feast with head and ears, and his tail with
pleasure shook. “Drink, pretty creature, drink!” she said, in such a tone That I almost received her heart into my own. 'Twas little Barbara Lewthwaite, a child of beauty rare ! I watched them with delight; they were a lovely pair. Now with her empty can the maiden turned away, But ere ten yards were gone her footsteps did she stay. Right toward the lamb she looked ; and from a shady
place, I, unobserved, could see the workings of her face.